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Pentecost 20 October 18, 2009

Isaiah 53:4-12                                                                    

Hebrews 5:1-10                                                                  

Mark 10:35-45

 

Well, it looks like it may be morning in America again. The Dow closed above 10,000; Goldman Sachs is looking for record profits with bonuses up in the hundreds of millions for its top people; air travel to exotic vacation spots is driving holiday air fares higher by the week; talk of reforms for the financial system is fading.

Morning comes in an interesting way though. Maybe you’ve noticed: the sun touches the tops of the hills and mountains, turning them golden, while the valleys where most of us live are still dark and damp, lying under frost. While a few people at the top are cheering the end of the recession, if this is the end, you and I know people who are unemployed, who are trying to get food stamps, who have no health coverage, whose pay has been cut, who may lose their homes. It is, as usual, the ordinary people who have to wait the longest for things to pick up.

The world of the Bible was no different. In fact, economic and social inequality was far greater back then. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 20 October 18, 2009’

Pentecost 19 October 11, 2009

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15                                                             

Hebrews 4:12-16                                                                

Mark 10:17-31

This is the story of three people. They’re at the age where suddenly they realize they’re not kids any more, they can’t use the excuse that they’re still growing up, finding themselves. It’s that point where we say to ourselves, my life isn’t infinite, I need to settle down, set myself to something meaningful. For some people that time comes in their twenties; for some, in their thirties; for some it’s later on – for me it was almost 40. It can be any age. For some people, well, it seems never to come. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 19 October 11, 2009’

Pentecost 18 October 4, 2009

Genesis 2:18-24                                                                  

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12                                                       

Mark 10:2-16

 

Today is the beginning of our annual fall pledge campaign, and the readings we’ve been given are actually great for the occasion. Maybe you were listening to them and thinking you were going to hear a sermon on divorce – always an edgy topic, almost as edgy as sermons on sex or money. Well, we’ll talk a little about divorce, and also sex while we’re at it, and of course money since this is the beginning of the pledge campaign. But really I want to talk about community and commitment, because community and commitment are the common themes that link all those other topics – divorce, sex and pledging — together. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 18 October 4, 2009’

Pentecost 16 September 20, 2009

Proverbs 31:10-31                                                              

James 3:13-18; 4:1-3, 7-8a                                                              

Mark 9:30-37

George Herbert is one of the greatest poets in the English language. He is also a saint in the Episcopal Church. He is honored as a saint not so much for his poetry, though most of it is religious, as for his life as an Anglican priest – a country parson, as he called himself. Born into one of England’s great noble families in 1593, Herbert withdrew from a life of political ambition and power to become the rector of a little country parish, not unlike Holy Cross. There he ministered and wrote his poetry until his untimely death at age 44. Herbert also wrote a book called The Country Parson, a guide for himself and others to the life a priest should live. In his book, he talks about prayer and preaching, about study, about keeping the church building clean and neat, about the ordering of the parson’s personal household.

And he devotes one chapter to “The Parson in Circuit.” Every weekday afternoon, Herbert says, the country parson should get on his horse and ride through a section of his parish, where he will find members of his flock, not dressed up and on their good behavior as on Sundays, but “naturally as they are, wallowing in the midst of their affairs.” And as he visits them, he is to commend them for what he finds good and reprove them where they need correction.

Herbert is careful to describe how this reproof part of the parson’s work is to be done, not arrogantly or abusively, but he is clear that it is to be done, without hesitation and in detail. A major part of the parson’s life, indeed a major part of the work of the Church in Herbert’s day, had to do with the practical moral formation of the people. It was expected and it was accepted, whether or not it was liked or paid attention to. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 16 September 20, 2009’

Holy Cross Day September 14, 2009

Numbers 21:4b-9                                                                               

1 Corinthians 1:18-24                                                       

John 3:13-17

I want us to reflect together this morning on two things: desire and commitment. We will find, I think, that our reflections lead us to a deeper understanding both of baptism and of the cross.

This last Friday I drove up to Tilton to meet a friend for lunch. It was also an opportunity for me to pick up some socks and undershorts at the outlet mall. There, parked next to me, was one of those huge excursion buses – from New Jersey, no less – which had driven all that way with a load of people to shop. A few of the shoppers were straggling back to the bus, bags of purchases in hand, looking exhausted. Looking lonely, too. Malls are full of people, but they are not communities. Continue reading ‘Holy Cross Day September 14, 2009’

Pentecost 14 September 6, 2009

James 2:1-17                                                                       

Mark 7:24-37                                                                      

Once upon a time the gospel this morning would have been heard simply as an account of two miracle healings, the daughter of a Gentile woman and a deaf man. Today we understand that while such stories are indeed about the miraculous power of Jesus as Son of God, they are signs or clues that tell us important things about the in-breaking of God’s kingdom – in Jesus’s time and ours. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 14 September 6, 2009’

Pentecost 13 August 30, 2009

James 1:17-27                                                                      

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23                                                      

Well, the school buses started rolling by this past week and the air turned crisp, so another summer is drawing to an end. No matter how long we’ve been out of school, fall is still somehow another beginning, isn’t it? It set me thinking of that old saying that wisdom is what remains after you’ve forgotten everything you learned in school. And I wonder if it isn’t true that holiness is what remains when we’ve forgotten everything we did in church? A thought, anyway.

It goes with our focus this morning, which is the last in our summer series on worship: “Being the Body of Christ in the World” – in other words, what happens after the service. We’ve received the Body and Blood of Christ into ourselves. We’ve “become what we are,” in those words of St. Augustine that we used for the title of this series. The whole point of our worship is now what comes afterwards, the formation of our lives in the world. There’s no point in liturgy, no point in prayer, if it doesn’t make a difference – the right kind of difference – in who we are and how we live in the world. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 13 August 30, 2009’

Pentecost 12 August 23, 2009

Ephesians 6:10-20                               The Rt. Rev. Arthur E. Walmsley, Bishop of Connecticut (ret.)

John 6:56-69

Have you ever been lost? I mean, physically lost? I can think of one occasion. It would have been forty years ago. I was solo camping and climbing in the White Mountains during the Memorial Day weekend. On my day to return home, the weather turned foggy and cold. Looking at my trail options, I decided to follow one off the barren granite peaks above timberline, stay on that trail for a time, and then bushwack straight off the mountain to where my car was parked. And then it happened; I misread the contour of the peak, and I was lost. Lost in the wilderness of the White Mountains National Forest on a cold and foggy day.

That’s one sort of lostness. This morning, as part of our series on the Holy Eucharist, I want to talk about another, I think much more serious, lostness. Continue reading ‘Pentecost 12 August 23, 2009’

Burial of Otto Heino August 17, 2009

Otto Heino's ashes rest in a burial urn that he made, wood-fired with his famous yellow glaze.

Otto Heino's ashes rest in a burial urn that he made, wood-fired with his famous yellow glaze.

Otto Heino was one of the most famous potters in the world, certainly in the United States. He died in July 2009 at the age of 95. Though he and his potter wife Vivika lived and worked in California, Mr. Heino grew up and wished to be buried in Weare. His funeral was held at Holy Cross Church. The following is the homily preached by the Vicar on that occasion.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11                                                            

John 14:1-6                                                                         

When I was in seminary, one of the books we were assigned to read was entitled Money, Sex and Power. It was sort of fun to read this book in public places – on a plane or a bus; people looked at you kind of funny. The book was assigned for our ethics class, and it pointed out that all the things people fight and struggle over in life, the things we make laws and rules to regulate, can be reduced to those three basics: money, sex and power.

These days when we read about funerals for famous people – celebrations of their lives – it is usually their attainments in terms of money, sex or power that are being celebrated. Think about Michael Jackson, to pick just a recent example. We watch  celebrity funerals on television, or read about them in People magazine, with a kind of gloating curiosity. Part of this is envy: we wish we were as rich or as beautiful or as powerful as the celebrity. But part of it is our knowledge that the celebrity’s worldly success is never the whole story; there are always shadows, dark sides. Think again of Michael Jackson. And that makes us feel better about our own sins and failures.

If life were only about the pursuit of money, sex and power, it would be a hollow thing indeed. But it isn’t. There is another triumvirate that also calls to us as human beings: the pursuit of the good, the true and the beautiful. And our lives have value in the end to the extent that they embody these three things: goodness, truthfulness, and beauty – though in worldly terms we may be poor, homely and powerless. Continue reading ‘Burial of Otto Heino August 17, 2009’

Pentecost 11 August 16, 2009

Proverbs 9:1-6                                                                     

John 6:51-58                                                                       

One of my fondest memories of Holy Cross will always be the ecumenical Thanksgiving service we celebrated at the Town Hall with Christ Community Church. This was back when Christ Community was just a house church, before they built their building in South Weare. A team of people from Holy Cross and a team from Christ Community worked together to design the service. We read the lessons and sang together, and then when it came time for Communion we had parallel tracks. Their pastor, Bob Christiansen, explained what they believed and how they celebrated Communion. I explained our beliefs and practices. And then we each did our thing, and people came forward separately, the Christ Community people in their line and the Holy Cross people in theirs.

Continue reading ‘Pentecost 11 August 16, 2009’